If you're a fan of the jazz fusion group Special EFX, a rather prodigious ensemble which has released 26 CDs over 25 years, as well as a DVD and 8 of this guitarist's solo efforts, then you're not going to be much surprised when I tell you Minucci's latest, Without You, is unreal good, very much up to his usual stratospheric standards and then some. Nor will it provoke wonder when I inform you it's progressive as hell while dwelling in that jazz/world realm the group is well-famed for. This guy can figure out so many unique strum patterns, leads, and hooks that it would take a book-length review to extol them all. That all said, it lastly won't provoke even a moment of startlement when I say this CD sounds just like something that would come off the European continent (well, okay, semi-continent) due to such a deep involvement with music qua music…because obviously you're already familiar with all that, right? "Sigh!" Sometimes this critiquing job gets tough when it comes to trying to top what's already been said about stellar acts.
So I won't. Instead, I'll just tell you that Without You is a 2-CD effort because ya can't hold Minucci down. He wrote so much of late that 1 CD wasn't at all sufficient, and the grand total of cuts adds ultimately up to 22, some of them as much as 7:15, most of 'em long-form brilliant essays in sparkling polyrhythms, convoluted passages, jaw-dropping chops, and no end of every little thing one listens to music for. I mean, this disc just throws off light and energy, even the ballads. More, his back-up band is dazzling, and the guests—keyboardist Jeff Lorber, violinists Karen Briggs & Alan Grubner ('n what violinists they are!), vocalist Will Brock, and others—are vibrant spices in an exotic menu, peppering each cut with that special added something that brings the whole extravaganza up another notch. However, special mention must be made of percussionist Phil Hamilton's great Al Jarreau-ish vocals on Love's Lost in Translation. Yow! Makes ya miss those last-generation great jazz singer-cats a little less.
(Did I mention the booklet? It's damn near a novel-length affair, weighing in at a gigantic 32 pages, giving the complete history of Special EFX and beyond, as well as extensive release credits and anecdotes for each cut, all penned by Minucci himself.) The guy is capable of just about anything that can be done with a guitar, from the exotica of Egberto Gismonti to the speed-demoning of Al DiMeola to the obtuse weirdnesses of abstracters like Robert Fripp to just about anyone you can name, most especially reflective of the Holy Three: Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, and Steve Khan, gents who put the last word in polish when it comes to what a total professional is, immaculate in every respect. Without You is a twofer that's going to make you fall in love with the guitar all over again…but this time while you're either dancing, seat shufflin', or just plain drooling.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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